When the Elbphilharmonie opens on January 11th, the concert hall in Hamburg, Germany, will be almost a decade late and nearly as many times over budget. Yet €789 million later, the structure, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, is being met with overwhelming praise from architecture critics and with enthusiasm from local denizens who previously feared that it might never reach completion. Initially projected to cost €77m and scheduled to open in 2010—unmet claims that resulted in a parliamentary inquiry—the Elbphilharmonie is due to be one of the most memorable new structures of 2017, finally more for the sheer expressive quality of its design than the controversies that surround it.
“It is a project on an unparalleled scale of ambition,” wroteGuardianarchitecture critic Oliver Wainwright after a visit to the Elbphilharmonie last month. The monumental, undulating volume of the concert hall and its 600 curved glass panes sit atop a brick building, formerly a warehouse, directly on the water, making for a dramatic presence while affording visitors a sweeping harbor view from its observation deck. The interior is immaculately detailed: The Grand Hall, one of three halls, contains handblown glass lamps and 10,000 distinct acoustic panels, while the bathrooms contain €300 toilet brushes.
And yet, for all the newness of its ascent into the Hamburg skyline, the Elbphilharmonie is rooted in the city’s architectural heritage: namely, in the Brick Expressionism that won renown for Hamburg architecture nearly a century ago. The Chilehaus, a 1924 office tower designed by local architect Fritz Hoger, celebrates the aesthetic properties of brick with an impossibly sharp, exaggerated corner. With its own red-brick base structure and unabashedly sculptural façade, the Elbphilharmonie brings the palette and the playful demeanor of Hamburg’s historic buildings into the 21st century.